To be honest, being pregnant hasn't been my favorite piece of pie, but thinking back over the duration of my pregnancy, there are some things I wish I would have known and remembered that I think would have made the experience a little easier. Here are 15 things I’d tell my pregnant self (and let’s be honest, I'd like to tell pregnant women everywhere).
- Being pregnant is not an excuse for a bad attitude. Just like you shouldn't use your period as an excuse for grouchy, outlandish behavior, being pregnant does not give you a free pass to be mean or grumpy. While the emotions are real, you still choose your attitude and every word that comes out of your mouth. Don't hurt others around you because you're being lazy and immature with your emotions. Yes, crazy things are happening to you and you really do feel out of control sometimes, but don’t use your pregnancy as a crutch. Know that how you react to situations really is within your control – your feelings may not be, but your actions are.
- Don't compare your pregnancy looks to anyone else's. It's easy to look at someone else who's pregnant or has recently been pregnant and wonder why you're not "changing" the same way they did. Everyone carries their baby differently, has different symptoms, and deals with pregnancy changes in their own way. So don't get upset if you have a torpedo belly and your friend doesn't, or your face looks like a blowfish and your cousin's didn't - it wasn't a good idea to compare yourself to other women pre-pregnancy and it's not now.
- Pile on the pillows in bed and share them with your husband. Turns out mine really enjoys the extra leg support. Maybe yours will too.
- Don't listen to other people's unsolicited advice (even if it's well-meaning) who tell you what you will or won't do. "A natural childbirth! Ha! You just wait until those contractions start, you won't be able to resist an epidural - it's a gift from Heaven!" "Just wait until you have one baby, then you won't want to have your children so close together." "Ewww, cloth diapers? That's disgusting; I'd never touch that much poop. You’re totally going to regret it." If there's one point on this list that hits home most for me, it's this one. I've been told how many children I'll want, how I'll deliver, how I'll raise my child, when I'll get a dog, how Mike and I's relationship will change, what I'll look like, what my house will look like - pretty much every part of my life from here on out has been dictated for me since I got pregnant.
No one can predict what your pregnancy/delivery/childbirth/life after will look like, so take it all with a grain of salt. While people are speaking truth from their own experience (or sometimes lack of experience *ahem* cloth diapers), everyone's experience is different and it's what you make it out to be. Trust yourself and your instincts, and know that just because someone else said "that's the way it is," it doesn't have to be that way for you. (And please remember this when you’re itching to give others advice as well.)
- Get over yourself - don't take people's comments on your "growth" personally. "You look VERY pregnant!" "You're huge!" "You look so uncomfortable, can I get you something?" Every pregnant woman has heard a few of these lines – particularly in the third trimester, yet I can't tell you the amount of times I've heard pregnant women complain about how something someone said was "insensitive” or “rude" (me included). Well, as a fellow pregnant woman, let me just say to all the pregnant women out there: Get over it. People are not trying to be mean - they're actually probably trying to be nice and start up a conversation with you, so don't over-think it, just say "thanks." You're not the only pregnant person in the world to be told that you look "like you're due any day now" when you're only 25 weeks pregnant - so stop huffing around about what someone said to you.
And while we're on the topic, let's just throw in the whole uninvited touching of your belly and the rant that typically ensues once the person that doesn't understand the "personal bubble" is out of earshot. Yes, they invaded your personal space; yes, they never would have done that when you were not pregnant; and yes, they should have asked, but really? Do you expect anything different? Baby bellies make people do crazy things and it’s a well-known fact that people like to touch pregnant bellies. So quit acting so shocked, pull up your maternity panties and let it roll off your
- It's natural to worry - but balance it with truth and reality. At 18 weeks, I landed a nasty stomach flu – ironically two days after eating deli meat. I wigged out. I thought I had Listeriosis, was completely hysterical, and called the nurse sobbing about how I ate deli meat and compromised my child’s life forever. I remember saying to the nurse through tears, “I don’t care what happens to me, I just want my baby to be okay.” Looking back it’s amazing to me how quickly I stopped caring about my own needs and health and became completely consumed with taking care of my baby. Concern for my baby’s well-being comes swifter and stronger than anything I’ve ever known, and while it’s only natural to worry about the baby, it’s only okay when it’s been tempered with truth and reality.
When I was sick, my thoughts immediately went to wondering how the baby was, and berating myself for eating that deli meat (even though I had sizzled it to oblivion), but instead of allowing it to consume my thoughts; I had to trust what the nurse told me, and live in the truth. It’s not fair to me or my husband to become consumed by the pregnancy, over analyzing every move or mistake made. It’s easy to jump to conclusions and worst-case scenarios, so when you feel yourself beginning to run down that path, check your mind and heart and live in the truth of now.
- Get educated and get smart. Don’t be a wallflower and assume your child will magically appear in your arms as perfect and easy as a cherub floating down from Heaven. While it can be easy to forget that you’re pregnant when you’re wearing your husband’s sweatpants and sweatshirt, you have a responsibility to care for yourself and your unborn child. I’m not saying you need to research every decision to the ends of the earth, but take time to consider large decisions and don’t just take your doctor/mom/friend’s advice blindly.
By being involved, you’ll feel closer to your baby and have confidence that you made the best decision you could at the time with the information you had, no matter what happens in the future. Growing in your knowledge gives you a base and a filter for everything you’re going through, so when you encounter a new situation, you’ll know what questions to ask – because if you don't know what questions to ask, you won't ask questions.
- On the flip side, you will have so many choices to make, you’ll just need to let some of them go. With the internet, you could research pregnancy, labor and delivery topics until the day you die. While it’s important to be an advocate for yourself and your child, there comes a time when it’s pointless to analyze a decision any longer. On the day you finally decide to pull the trigger on that Bumbo you've been looking at for the past seven months, you’ll probably find that it was recalled and you can’t get it anyway.
- If you want to get your nails done, do it. Don’t feel ashamed. Flash those obviously manicured hands as often as you can. Preferably while drinking coffee.
- Try to enjoy the process. Some people love pregnancy, some people hate it, and some land right in the middle. Pregnancy is a roller coaster and it’s pretty much impossible to mentally prepare for all the changes happening. One day you feel cute and adorable and the next day you feel like the Goodyear Blimp. One day you think you’re free from the sleepy first trimester and the next day you’re cashed out on the couch at 5 p.m. One day you think you've seen it all and the next day you have a bloody nose that won’t stop, feet that are a shoe size bigger, you've broken out with acne like a pubescent 16 year-old boy, and you’re quite talented at sneezing and involuntarily wetting your pants at the same time. Weird crap is happening to you - don't try to figure it all out, wonder why or wish it would stop - just roll with it. Your body is doing the most important thing in the world and it's doing an amazing job of it. Give it some grace. It's nurturing, accommodating and growing a life inside you; doing things you never thought possible. It is beautiful and wonderful and, quite honestly, it’s downright miraculous.
- First trimester – hide the bump. Second trimester – flaunt the bump. Third trimester – flatter the bump. Adding an 11a: Do everyone a favor and wear a belt below your boobs and above your bump in the second trimester. Not everyone will get the hint that you’re intentionally highlighting your growing belly, but they can’t say you didn’t try. Mike says it’s his number one tip-off to know that a woman is pregnant and not just gaining a beer belly.
- Make sure you like your provider. If you don't, switch. Doctor, midwife, doula, whomever you’re using, make sure you like them. Don’t be afraid to change, even late in pregnancy. I switched at 30 weeks and I haven’t regretted it for a second. Find someone who’s on your same page and you enjoy seeing a heck of a lot for nine months.
- Everyone says you're never ready to have kids, but usually you're ready to have your kid. Nine months (technically 10, but let’s not get into that here) is both a long and a short time to get ready for your baby. When we first got pregnant, I most definitely did not feel ready have a child and the first two trimesters couldn't go slow enough. Fast forward to month nine and I’m thrilled and excited to meet this little guy (usually) and am hoping he comes early. I’ll be honest, most of it truly is to meet him, but shedding the extra 20+ pounds and constant kick in my ribs is a motivating perk. (You didn't really think I’d announce how much weight I’d gained on the blog, did you?)
- Remember your husband. It’s easy to become all-consumed by the changes that are happening to you. And while it’s true that you’re going through a lot more changes than your husband is, it doesn't give you the right to ignore his needs. Recognize that he’s going through a major life change too, adjusting to the idea that in a few months he’ll be a dad and in the meantime, he’s trying to care for and love his wife in any way that he can. He doesn't understand what you’re going through, and don’t expect him to. Love him by understanding that this is a big change for him too and that he has a big part to play, now and when the baby arrives. Ask him how he’s adjusting to the news, what his fears and hopes are for the baby, and boost his confidence by telling him not only how great he is now, but how great he will be as a dad. It can’t hurt to give him a backrub now and then either - building cribs and rubbing your feet can take a lot out of a guy.
- You will love your baby long before you meet face-to-face. For those who would not consider themselves a “kid-person” take hope. I didn’t fall in love with my little guy overnight, but I found that my love for him grew over time to where I was surprised to find that the feelings of concern, happiness and care I felt for my growing baby was actually love. At 32 weeks I fell down eight wooden stairs walking from my kitchen to my basement. I could barely walk the next day and had some hideous bruises to show for it. The baby’s movements slowed nearly to a stop for the next 24 hours or so, and my mind was whirring with fear, anger and anxiety. I told Mike through tears, “If I lose the baby, I’ll never forgive myself.” While I was being emotional and dramatic, and definitely not listening to my own advice in point number six, it was that day that I realized how much I loved him. While at times I find myself still downright terrified to become a mom in a few short weeks (or days!), I am comforted in knowing just how deep my love runs for him, and am excited to see how it changes even more once I can hold him in my arms.